The 10 Commandments of Successful SPIFF Promotions




  • — April 3, 2019

    When built and managed appropriately, sales performance incentive funds (SPIFFs or SPIFs or SPIVs) can be tremendously effective in boosting flagging sales or increasing sales of new products or product sets.

    You shall align the promotion with other channel marketing activities.

    A channel incentive program is just one piece of a larger partner program puzzle. Knowing you’re about to launch a SPIFF promotion, you must be able to answer a single question: “Why am I doing this?” Your primary objective will likely be to increase sales and market share for your products, but don’t disregard secondary objectives: improving partner loyalty, encouraging changes in sales behavior, improving up- and cross-selling, and so forth. It’s also very important to ensure your goals align (in the closest possible way) to those of your partners, so have a chat with them prior to launching and see where their business objectives match with yours, or what you can tweak to ensure participation.

    You shall keep the promotions short and sweet.

    The most effective SPIFF promotions are short-term ones, running for no more than two or three months, tops. This ensures that channel sales partners don’t become so accustomed to receiving rewards for sales of the products being featured that they lose any motivational boost they may have gotten from a promotion that is advertised as “for a short time only.” In fact, the whole point of a SPIFF is to push a specific product or product set, whether it’s for a new launch or to jumpstart flagging sales results. If you have different business goals, such as driving your partners to perform at increasingly higher levels, other types of incentive promotions may be better suited.

    You shall communicate regularly and clearly.

    Announcing a SPIFF promotion once isn’t going to lead to impressive results. The best SPIFF promotions are exceptionally well-communicated. You should build an appropriate integrated marketing and communication plan to get sales reps to register and participate in the promotion using various mediums to hit your targets: email (if you have contact information), prospecting or engaging existing partners using your internal field sales reps, advertising (both print and online), events, co-branded opportunities with distributors and wholesalers, and so forth. These communications should be regular and frequent, especially at launch.

    The 10 Commandments of Successful SPIFF Promotions

    You shall make it easy to participate.

    Gone are the days when sales reps would have to fax in their invoices in order to get credit for a sale. To make sure your SPIFF promotions gets the participation it requires, these days it’s all about being online. Have a portal through which sales reps can log in and track their status in real time. Allow them to upload copies of their claims or invoices, providing the option to bulk upload where appropriate. Give them access to a rewards mall through which they can redeem their earnings the way they would like to, whether it be through a reloadable Visa card, a gift card, or even a direct deposit to their personal bank accounts. Maintaining a good user experience throughout the promotion (or full incentive program) is crucial in getting more participation.

    You shall provide adequate education.

    From the get-go, if your promotion rules are too complex, your channel sales reps will give up on trying to earn the rewards. Keep it simple: have a limited number of products being promoted and a single monetary amount associated with each. In addition to simply educating sales reps on the rules of the program, they’re going to benefit from knowing the ins and outs of your product(s) as well. Through training, you can impart information about features of your products, and also inform sales reps about how to properly sell these products. This is the kind of information that can empower sales reps to have a more positive view of your product—and ultimately to sell more.

    You shall ensure the promotions are targeted properly.

    When running channel sales promotions, so often we treat every segment of the channel equally. But an experience truly targeted to the participant helps to boost engagement and win loyalty. Use audience segmentation to target specific promotions to only those reps who are eligible to see them based on various criteria:

    • Geographic. One example of this would be to target a SPIFF promotion at all dealers in the Southeast region.
    • Behavioral. Only allow sales reps who have completed training to participate in the SPIFF promotion.
    • Firmographic. Run the SPIF promotion for all partner organizations that have more than 100 sales reps.

    It is important to remember that even though you want each user selling as much of that product as you can, each user is not the same. Leveraging advanced segmentation not only allows you to cater your promotions and messaging to each user or user group, which will give you greater visibility into what resonates with what type of program participant.

    The 10 Commandments of Successful SPIFF Promotions

    You shall add an element of gamification.

    Boost SPIFF promotion participation by running a game in conjunction with the promotion to inspire friendly competition and the opportunity to earn more rewards. For example, upon reaching certain sales milestones, participants can earn “spins” in a spin-to-win game, which provides an interactive way to win rewards instantly. According to Incentive Federation, more than $ 17 billion was spent by manufacturers on channel programs in 2017—which implies that a lot of your competitors are likely trying to woo the same sellers as you are. Games add that extra layer of entertainment to the promotion that could keep the sellers more loyal to your brand.

    You shall ensure appropriate claims validation processes are in place.

    Often where there are opportunities to earn rewards there are also opportunities to game the system. A few mistakes or intentional false submissions can create major problems for your company. From unexpected payout amounts to just plain theft, fraud is a huge concern for most incentive programs. SPIFF promotions can only be successful if they are free from loopholes that lead to false claims. Your program should include a secure claims submission environment and multiple layers of sales validation rules.

    The 10 Commandments of Successful SPIFF Promotions

    You shall have measurable data and accurate reports.

    When running targeted promotions to dealers and distributors, seeing graphical charts and reports about performance, sales lift, ROI and other results helps channel marketers strategize on how to further boost the effectiveness of those campaigns. For the promotion participant, allowing them to track his or her progress in real time—which helps to keep the sales rep engaged and active in the promotion.

    You shall offer quick turnaround on SPIFF earnings.

    Traditionally—and even now with incentive programs that are being run in-house and on spreadsheets—sales reps could not expect to receive their earnings from SPIFF promotions for weeks or even months. Want to keep the excitement going around the promotion? Make sure the reps get their due in a timely fashion. If a claim can be approved in a matter of hours, so too should the reward be delivered quickly.

    Once the promotion has ended, be sure to hold a post mortem to glean insights from the promotion’s results: what worked, what didn’t work, what could be improved, and so forth.


    Run a single SPIFF promotion, or multiple at once, at groups or segments of your choosing. Built-in gamification and great rewards motivate your participants to sell more. Schedule a demo now!

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    Author: Ingrid Catlin

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